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DNR to designate Crow Wing River as 'infested waters'

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will designate the Crow Wing River in Hubbard, Wadena, Todd, Cass and Morrison counties as "infested waters" later in June because the faucet snail (Bithynia tentaculata) has been found there. The snail is linked to waterfowl deaths at Lake Winnibigoshish, 75 miles northeast of Wadena in Itasca County, and the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota.

The faucet snail was first noticed in nearby Upper and Lower Twin lakes and the Shell River in Wadena County last fall. The Twin lakes and the Shell River are connected to the Crow Wing River.

New regulations will take effect along the river to help stop movement of the faucet snail to other waters. Once designated "infested water," state law prohibits the transport of water from the Crow Wing River without a permit. It also prohibits anglers or commercial bait harvesters from harvesting bait from these waters without a permit.

The Crow Wing River is a particularly popular river for canoeing and tubing, but it is also heavily used by commercial bait trappers. A training session for trappers is set for 12:30-4 p.m. Monday, June 21, at the Hubbard County courthouse.

According to Tom Stursa, a DNR wildlife technician in the Park Rapids office, the Crow Wing holds some ducks during the spring and fall migration periods. Stursa has hunted ducks on the northern end of the Crow Wing and knows of several good duck ponds adjacent to the river.

Before leaving a water access on the Crow Wing River and traveling on a public road, people boating, canoeing, tubing or angling must also:

• Remove all aquatic plants and sediment from boats, trailers and other equipment.

• Drain all water from bilges, livewells and bait containers.

• Avoid illegally transporting infested water on a public road. Pulling the drain plug before leaving an access is the best way to show that water has been drained from a boat.

Anglers with live bait that they want to use again must drain infested water from the bait container and replace it with tap or spring water. Anglers, boaters and hunters should also check their boats, anchors, waterfowl decoys, push poles, and the inside of bait containers for snails, then remove them before visiting another water body.

Faucet snails are hosts to parasitic trematodes, a small intestinal parasite believed to have contributed to the deaths of tens of thousands of diving duck species such as scaup and coots in the past three years on Lake Winnibigoshish, and the last six years on the Mississippi River near Winona.

The DNR staff found a few trematodes in the small number of snails sampled from the Crow Wing River. There is no evidence that the parasite will adversely affect fish or wildlife other than waterfowl. Anglers can eat fish from Upper and Lower Twin lakes without worry of trematodes.

"By taking a few simple steps such as inspecting, draining and drying, and disposing of any water and aquatic life when leaving the Crow Wing River (or any lake or river), boaters, anglers, and others enjoying the river can help stop the spread of the faucet snail and several other aquatic hitchhikers," said Darrin Hoverson, DNR invasive species specialist.